UMass Students Protest Police Response to ‘Blarney Blowout’

A group of UMass Amherst students staged a protest today in response to what they call “oppressive tactics” used by police at the “Blarney Blowout” this past weekend. Police arrived in riot gear to those pre-St. Patrick’s Day parties, which the university says led to more than 50 arrests. Charges ranged from alcohol violations to assaulting a police officer.

Close to 100 students gathered outside the UMass Student Union to protest.

“We want to work with our administration, we want to work with the town as a community,” said Preston Davis, a UMass senior who helped organize the protest. “But when they make it an us vs. them type of deal, that’s when we have to stand up for ourselves. You can’t kind of villainize or criminalize us and expect us not to do anything.”

Students marched across campus from the student union to the administrative building, where they presented three demands: an investigation into actions by the Amherst police, a formal apology, and a public meeting with Chancellor Kumble Subaswammy. Chancellor Subaswammy has said some students brought shame on the university during the weekend partying. Associate Chancellor Susan Pearson responded to the protesters.

“Certainly we will work with the town, and if there are credible allegations of excessive force by the police, we will look into them,” Pearson said.

Calls to the Amherst Police Department were not returned.

Updated at 5:15 P.M., a UMass spokesperson says the total number of arrests was revised from more than 70 down to 58. That includes arrests from the Amherst police and university police, and includes both students and non-students.